Elk River boys finish fifth at state, Filipiak and Baldwin represent girls team

by Jake Andersen

Sports Reporter

After a rough first day of the state tournament, the Elks accomplished what they set out to do on Day 2.

Knowing the odds were stacked against them to make up 11 strokes on Day 1 leader St. Thomas Academy, they focused on doing what they could just to move up from their seventh-place position after the first day.

They did just that, moving up two spots to secure another top-five finish in their fourth straight state tourney at Bunker Hills Golf Course on June 11-12. Edina won the Class 3A state title with a two-day total of 595.

Elk River finished with 618 strokes over two days, shooting 303 on Day 1 and 315 on Day 2. Although they shot worse on the second day, they were able to pass up Maple Grove and Stillwater on a day that saw every team but sixth-place finisher Lakeville South score higher.

“We came into (the second day) with the motto of ‘Let’s move up,’ ... so it was good to make the move up,” said Elks head coach Phil Johnson, whose team tied for fourth at state last year. “And you know, the scores were high today, but it was a tough day of conditions, evidenced by some of the top guys and the scores they shot.”

Senior Caden Holt led Elk River’s charge into the top five on a windy, pressure-filled second day, shooting a team-low 76, while sophomore Brady Holland and junior Josh Hebrink shot 77 and 79, respectively. Senior Nate Gfroerer rounded out team scoring with an 83.

The foursome also factored into the team’s scoring on a cool, gloomy Day 1, with Hebrink leading the way with a 73. Holland, Holt and Gfroerer shot 75, 77 and 78, respectively.

Johnson spoke highly of his four scorers, noting it was especially nice to see Gfroerer factor into the scoring after coming into the tournament as their No. 6 golfer.

“It was good to see Josh play well, and Brady. Two kids that’ll be coming back next year. ... Caden had a good state tournament too, so it was good to see him finish the way he did,” Johnson said. “And I really have to take my hat off to Nate, scoring both days. He didn’t have the best of year coming down the stretch, but saved his best and played well at state.”

Holland and Hebrink both shot a team-low 152 over the two days — tying for 19th overall — while Holt finished with a 153 and Gfroerer with a 161. Sophomore Ihle Majeres and senior Aaron Larson also competed and shot 165 apiece.

Holt admitted it wasn’t the team’s best showing, but he took pride in the effort they put forth to make up ground on two good teams.

“We gave it all we could,” Holt said. “We tried to make up as many strokes as we could.”

Holt, who’s played for the Elks since seventh grade, added that it was an amazing season for him and fellow seniors Gfroerer and Larson to go out on, as they built on the program’s rich tradition of excellence by winning their fourth straight Section 7-3A title and finishing as the Northwest Suburban Conference runner-up to go along with a fifth-place state finish.

“It was very special. Everything that we’ve accomplished this year is incredible,” Holt said. “Four years ago, we would dream of going to the state tournament. And now it’s when we make it there.”

Johnson said his three seniors “will be hard to replace,” as they played huge roles in the program’s success the past few years, but he’s confident that they still have what it takes to make a run for a fifth straight section title and state tournament appearance next season. They’ll return Holland, who earned All-State honors this season, as well as Hebrink and Majeres. They also have a strong group of junior varsity golfers coming up.

“I know that we got guys that are wanting to fill those spots that are being left by these seniors,” Johnson said. “And (this is) the goal, to always get down here (to state).”

Waconia took second with 597 strokes. They were followed by St. Thomas Academy and Alexandria. Lakeville South, Maple Grove and Stillwater took sixth, seventh and eighth.

Filipiak, Baldwin play in girls state tourney

Elk River junior Abbey Filipiak and senior Toni Baldwin also represented Elk River at the girls state tournament on June 11-12 at Bunkers Hills, with Filipiak taking 16th and Baldwin placing 46th out of 88 golfers.

Filipiak, the Section 7-3A individual champion, shot a 160 over two days, scoring a 79 on Day 1 and an 81 on Day 2 in her third straight state tournament. She improved five places from last season when she finished in a tie for 21st with a 159.

Despite the improvement, Filipiak said she had hoped to finish even higher. Nevertheless, she took pride in the season she put together.

“I felt as though I was disappointed in how I ended up. I felt as though I left too many shots out there the last couple days,” Filipiak said. “Overall, I felt like my season was better than years previous. With each round and shot, I felt I was able to grow into a much better player. Sixteenth place I guess isn’t that bad of a finish, but next year will be a new year of more improvement.”

As for Baldwin, she was making her state tourney debut in her final high school golf meet. She endured through a rough first day, shooting an 89, but responded with an 83 on her second day, finishing with a two-day total of 172.

Baldwin said the front nine holes of her first round were particularly challenging, but once she got settled in, she felt good about what she was able to do. She added that it was the perfect way to end her high school golf career.

“I had a rough start on the first day on the front nine. It was a lot more pressure than I expected it to be, but I forced myself to come back on the back nine,” Baldwin said. “Today was a better day, and I just decided to enjoy my last high school tournament, no matter what I shot.

“It’s been an amazing experience playing with everyone and it was super awesome having friends, family and coach (Dave) Bleyhl watching and cheering me on. I wish I could have ended my high school career with a better score, but I’m just glad I made it to state in the first place.”

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